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  • Writer's pictureIrene cisma díaz

Why companies should start asking consumers to freeze their stool samples

Beauty-from-within might become the disruptive innovation of the cosmetic industry. The industry trends that emerge in the not too distant- future, might seem like they are extracted from a sci-fi film or a chapter of Black Mirror. Better to start getting familiar with them!

To speak about product innovation trends relating to beauty-from-within, we first need to discuss clinical research trends. Human clinical studies are the highest standard of research to validate or substantiate health claims, but also provide the consumer with confidence. Our marketing team works with available clinical trial data to understand the clinical arena. Last summer, we looked at registered human studies under the term “cosmetic”. After cleaning the data, we found 89 studies relevant to this segment, from which 79% of them were interventional studies. From total interventional studies under the term “cosmetic” (n=70), 66% studied a topical product, 18% a dietary supplement and 16% a combination of topical and dietary supplement products.

The skin conditions studied different endpoints and biomarkers that allowed us to slot the data into two categories: wellness & symptomatic trials. From the total of interventional trials found, 45% focused on wellness and a 55% studied symptomatic endpoints. Acne, anti-ageing effects or hydration were the predominant researched conditions on the wellness category. On the other hand, the symptomatic category targeted conditions such as: keratosis, eczema, dermatitis, or psoriasis.

Many companies have expressed their concern to our team about the clinical research costs and return of investment. On the beauty-from-within space, one size shouldn’t fit all. Having specific expertise to discern what’s required and relevant for a specific product, condition and population can have a huge impact on the research budget, and for instance on the product’s ROI.

Clinical studies have some fixed set-up costs associated such as study documentation, data collection platform, recruitment asset production, or screening tools, just to mention some. Nevertheless, most parts of a human clinical study budget are variable. This variability is mostly explained by the number of participants enrolled on the trial and the number of visits.

Coming back to the research on clinical research trends conducted by our team last year, the average participant enrolment varied depending on the studied condition category (symptomatic or wellness) and the interventional product type (dietary supplements, topical or a combination of both products). Symptomatic trials recruit an average of 86 participants, while wellness trials’ average was 92study participants.

For “beauty-from-within” trials, considered as the intersection of wellness & dietary supplement trials, the average enrolment was 61 participants. However, there exists some variation depending on the condition studied: Studies on photodamaged skin had 194 enrolled participants, while generic skin care trials had just 28 participants.

Conducting human clinical studies in the beaty-from-within segment does not have to be expensive, albeit smaller companies can get overwhelmed by them. They are right, a clinical budget for a trial that requires 250 participants can look very intimidating. The cosmetic clinical research market might have presented a concept very well-known across B2B market segmentation researchers: unobserved heterogeneity. In order to arrive to that conclusion firmly, some further research would need to be done on this field.

Some might argue that analysing past published data can be an appropriate starting point to identify the current trends, but not so effective at predicting them. To get ahead of the innovation curve, we need to combine scientific literature review and creative thinking. Microbiome research offers an ocean of ideas to explore and plays an important role in the beauty-from-within market. Concepts such as the “gut-brain-skin axis” or the potential correlation between the microbiome diversity reduction and the ageing process must be incorporated into cosmetic research. This provides consumers with validated answers but also the knowledge to bring cutting-edge innovations to the market.

Integrating microbiome discoveries into the product development process might leverage some ideas that, initially, might sound extracted from a sci-fi film, but that could become a reality to the final consumers. Ideas such as personalised skin microbiome cosmetics combining oral and topical treatments. If including the brain part of the axis, companies may also provide a meditation routine that could improve the effectiveness of the product overall. It would be extremely interesting to conduct further clinical studies on this area. Some market research agencies state that the average time spent on skincare routines is 23 minutes, per day Optimal meditation routines take approximately 20 minutes. From a time-management perspective, it makes sense to combine these two routines. What about from a scientific perspective? Clinical studies would need to be conducted to validate these theories.

Some Tik Tok influencers are flooding the social network with routines to stimulate the Vagus nerve which are lacking any scientific rigour. Scientists and healthcare professionals from all over the world are pulling their hair out over this trend. Why not target this growing need from consumers with research following the scientific method?

Skin ageing and microbiome research is also setting its foundations. Studies across different age groups have highlighted the skin microbial communities’ variations. For example, a recent study in a Korean population, showed that the genus Lawsonella was more abundant in the younger age group, and Enhydrobacter was predominant in the older age group. Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium were more abundant in males, while Lactobacillus was more abundant in females. Lawsonella had a negative correlation with skin moisture and brown spots. Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium both had negative correlations with the number of UV spots and positive correlations with transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Furthermore, Staphylococcus aureus had a negative correlation with skin moisture parameters. All of these findings can lead to the creation of personalised products that meet individual requirements.

Product personalisation could be easily implemented with the help of AI, as highlighted on a recent study where researchers predict skin hydration, subject's age, pre/post-menopausal status and smoking status from the leg skin microbiome. As this paper mentions, the changes in microbial composition linked to skin hydration can accelerate the development of personalized treatments for healthy skin, while those associated with age may offer insights into the skin aging process.

While in 1980, women freezing their own eggs in order to get IVF at an older age to maximise the chances of pregnancy might have seemed like an alien idea then, but today it is very common. Shall we start freezing our faecal and skin microbiome samples in order to obtain personalised skincare, cosmetics and treatments in the future? I might!


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